There’s a lot of discussion happening in the world right now about mental health. Many of us struggle with things that have affected how we see the world. Some of us come from divorced or dysfunctional families. Some of us carry heavy burdens of loss or trauma. Some have had to deal with mental illnesses or other psychological disorders.
The world we live in is constantly showing us a “perfect ideal” of how our lives “should” be. Social media gives us an ever-updating highlight reel of other people’s lives. Magazines and commercials tell us to be a certain size and shape, and exactly how we should think. This can lead to comparison and FOMO (Fear of missing out). How draining is that? Have you ever thought about the weight we carry around simply by being in contact and available to everyone all the time?
Personally, I struggle with feelings of anxiety and inadequacy, developed through past experiences and (if we’re being totally honest here) too many hours dedicated to magazines and the internet. But, part of preparing for the Lord’s Second Coming means preparing in all areas of life. We know that as we move closer to His return, the more difficult challenges will become. As disciples of Christ, we can prepare emotionally for the upcoming challenges by developing emotional resiliency.
What is Emotional Resiliency?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has recently released a new self-reliance class for emotional resiliency. In the course manual it says, “To become like the Savior, everyone will need to face challenges and hardships during this life. Dealing with life’s challenges successfully requires faith in Jesus Christ and emotional resilience. Emotional resilience is the ability to adapt to emotional challenges with courage and faith centered in Jesus Christ, helping yourself and others the best you can, reaching out for additional help when needed.”
That love never changes. … It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve [it]. It is simply always there. Never, ever doubt that.”Jeffrey R. Holland
This new self-reliance class is available through the Church and is completely free. It is available through local Stakes, and all the (Link in the Resources). There are also other ways to strengthen our mental health. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “So how do you best respond when mental or emotional challenges confront you or those you love? Above all, never lose faith in your Father in Heaven, who loves you more than you can comprehend … Never, ever doubt that, and never harden your heart. Faithfully pursue the time-tested devotional practices that bring the Spirit of the Lord into your life. Seek the counsel of those who hold keys for your spiritual well-being. Ask for and cherish priesthood blessings. Take the sacrament every week, and hold fast to the perfecting promises of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Believe in miracles. I have seen so many of them come when every other indication would say that hope was lost. Hope is never lost. If those miracles do not come soon or fully or seemingly at all, remember the Savior’s own anguished example: if the bitter cup does not pass, drink it and be strong, trusting in happier days ahead.”
Easy Ways to Boost Your Mental Health
So let’s talk about some ways to proactively care for our mental health. Having a battle plan for when moments are stressful and challenging helps us to endure those moments well.
As a society, I’m pretty sure we are perpetually sleep deprived. Have you been a room of adults lately that talks about how “well-rested” they are? Probably not. Getting enough quality rest is important for our emotional health. In fact, the Sleep Foundation finds that, “Sufficient sleep, especially REM sleep, facilitates the brain’s processing of emotional information. During sleep, the brain works to evaluate and remember thoughts and memories, and it appears that a lack of sleep is especially harmful to the consolidation of positive emotional content. This can influence mood and emotional reactivity and is tied to mental health disorders and their severity, including the risk of suicidal ideas or behaviors.”
Don’t you love after a long winter, that first day where the sun is out, and the temperature starts to warm up? It’s so nice to go out and lay in the sun, or go on a walk. I live in Rexburg, which means that it is snowy and cold from sometime in October until April. But the first day it is over 40 degrees, everyone is outside in the sun, with shorts, and t-shirts. And you can just tell people just feel better.
Why is that? Studies have actually shown that a few minutes outside can actually measurably lower your stress levels! Fresh air, exercise, and direct sunlight help combat depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges by boosting endorphin and lowering cortisol levels.
What about the food we eat? Could that actually contribute to our mental health? Did you know that your gastrointestinal tract is sometimes called your second brain? Your gut health is actually directly related to your dopamine levels, because the bacteria in your gut affect your neurotransmitters. Therefore, what you eat definitely affect how you think and feel. Whole foods help balance and promote good bacteria, whereas things like sugar interrupt those neurotransmitters and cause crashes. So cleaning up our diet can help us not only feel better physically, but also mentally!
Ok, if we’re going to talk about diet, you know we’re going to mention exercise. In the words of the wise Elle Woods, “Exercise causes endorphins, endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands.” Researchers have found that exercise helps to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels.
Practicing gratitude has huge impacts on our mental health. President Nelson said, “There is no medication or operation that can fix the many spiritual woes and maladies that we face. There is, however, a remedy—one that may seem surprising—because it flies in the face of our natural intuitions. Nevertheless, its effects have been validated by scientists as well as men and women of faith. I am referring to the healing power of gratitude.” A few weeks ago, we talked about the health benefits of gratitude, and some ideas for how to practice. For more ideas on how to implement gratitude in your life, check out our gratitude post here.
There’s a lot of discussion about what self-care exactly self-care is, what it looks like, and how to define it. But for our purposes, let’s just simplify self-care to doing something that helps us relax and feel good about ourselves. Maybe it’s an extra hot bubble bath, or finding some time to read. It could mean finding some time to spend developing a hobby. Those would be options for me. But for my husband, self-care looks like getting to chill with a movie, or going to play some sort of sports with the guys. Our schedules and to do lists these days are longer than we could possibly accomplish. Go to work, run a side hustle, scripture study, personal development, quality time with the kids, quality time with our spouse, serve the neighbor, plan date night, go to the Church activity, make it to soccer practice, etc. And for every thing we check off, there’s something added. Finding time to do something that you enjoy, that makes you feel a little less worn out, is your self-care time, whatever that looks like for you.
Schedule a Break
Speaking of endless to do lists, have you ever thought of scheduling a break? My brother and sister-in-law plan an annual vacation at the beginning of the year to plan the year, set goals, and get away to be together on a time that isn’t a holiday with family, or their anniversary. A friend of mine often plans a couple of staycations with their family, where they book a hotel (still in the city where they live) and go play for a day where they can completely focus on each other, and not get caught up in the to-dos at home. Another sister trades play dates with a girl in her ward so she has some alone time during the week to focus on what she needs/wants to get done. One sister schedules a nail appointment once a month to have some quality adult conversation, while her husband takes the kids. Planning ahead for something like this allows you to get the quality time away from responsibilities you need! And the best part is it can fit whatever you need, whether it’s time as a family, a couple, or just you.
Preparing for Challenges Ahead
The prophets have foretold that the days ahead will be challenging. As we prepare the world for the coming of our Savior, things will not be easy. It is important for us to not only make sure we have emergency supplies and food storage, but also to prepare emotionally for what lies ahead. How will we respond when things become more difficult? How will we respond with faith?
As we prioritize preparing emotionally, and strengthening our mental health, we will also meet our trials more easily, and endure them well. Then “God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”
- Emotional Resilience Manual
- Jeffrey R. Holland Like a Broken Vessel, October 2013
- Mental Health + Sleep, https://www.sleepfoundation.org/mental-health
- Mental Health Benefits Outdoors https://lifeworkscc.com/mental-health-benefits-outdoors/
- The Healing Power of Gratitude, Russell M. Nelson, November 2020
- Legally Blonde
- Doctrine and Covenants 121:8